Why Social Networking? Why not?

I was reflecting on social networking and what it means.

There was an article recently in The Times showing how much time people spent, on average, on various social networking sites.  As with all such statistics, the average obviously obscures a huge range.

Speaking personally, I write two blogs – this one and one a closed one at work, I use Twitter quite a lot and have an under-used personal account on Facebook.

Why do I do all this? The simple answer is because I like to.  And why do I like it?  Well, that’s harder to explain.

I like Twitter because it gives me “a sense of presence” and I might well tweet whether anyone followed me or not.  I also like Twitter because I can see what various friends and colleagues are up to, sometimes stimulating messages back and forth.  And I like Twitter because I can follow the Lotus F1 Team and learn what Mike Gascoigne and Tony Fernandez are feeling during a race and – to a lesser extent – follow how Norwich City are doing in the Championship.

Why do I like doing this blog?  Well, I like writing – and always have done.  As a historian and a mandarin (civil servant) you get the habit and a blog is, let’s face it, at least in part the modern way of vanity publishing.

You can use a blog to put your thoughts out there and see if anyone reads them. And, if you are lucky, you can strike up a dialogue or discussion.

I have always felt that the wondrous thing about the Internet was the ability to connect easily with that very small  – or large – group of individuals around the world who are interested in some of the same things as you. So whether that interest is Roman forts on the Arabian frontier in the 4th Century – or, say, pond-life in Norfolk – you can get in touch with those who have similar pre-occupations.

Facebook I am less keen on, although I do use it a little, given its wide-openness or at least the way its settings constantly steer you towards publishing your family holiday snaps to the World:  I prefer to keep mine to real friends and family.

But I guess the real key to social networking is that you can set it to do what you want.  You can follow celebs or friends or minority interests.  You can expose yourself – literally if you feel inclined – in public or carefully reveal just what you want.

So what kind of social networking works best for you? And what doesn’t?

About paulcoby
I am CIO at the John Lewis Partnership in the UK. I was Chair of SITA - the airline solutions company owned by the Air Transport Community - for 11 years. I am also on the Boards of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank and Pets at Home. Previously I was Head of BA Services and for 10 years CIO at British Airways. I am interested in Roman and Military History. The views expressed are entirely my own not my employers.

3 Responses to Why Social Networking? Why not?

  1. Ian says:

    There seem to be a few closed ‘facebook’-a-likes popping up, with far more privacy. I read an interesting presentation from a guy at Google (sorry, no link) explaining the fundamental flaw with social networks was that in real life, your social groups don’t overlap – what’s of interest to my triathlon buddies is boring to work-mates or old college friends. I noticed this week a new site starting up limited to student email addresses (no parents). I’ve signed up for (but haven’t yet used) ‘The Fridge (www.frid.ge), which is completely private and by invite only – ideal for sharing with genuine friends & family.

    • paulcoby says:

      Ian, great observation. Social networking connects you to a global community of people interested in the same thing and this is generally a deep and narrow segment. So on this blog I keep myself to matters related to IT – albeit covering “IT and people” and “IT and business” rather than simply techie issues. Like everyone else, I have other interests and I would dearly like to blog about these: but later Roman fort design, or 19th century railways, or world music are not going to fit very well here!
      Which is why Twitter is so very interesting because it is not like that. Again speaking personally, I do put a fair bit of IT and airline IT tweets up there (especially as RTs), but I also mention music, travel and things that just interest me (e.g. Bonaparte volunteering for La Perouse’s doomed South Pacific expedition and being turned down).
      I asked a business acquaintance why he followed people on Twitter, and he said he did partly because of the business related tweets, but also it was just interesting to see what people you know are up to.

  2. DavidB says:

    Hi Paul – interesting to hear your thoughts…. I have adopted a similar strategy for blogging and facebook as you (so we must be right !). LinkedIN is purely for business and I have now got 2 twitter accounts – one for business and one for personal because it is a great way for keeping up on news but needs to be focussed.

    My view is that for business use – we are starting to see platforms which include all features, ideally integrated, inside the organisation. Blogs are the new memo’s, social messaging is the new email etc. Sharing by email on a “need to know” basis will start to seem a strange way to work !

    best regards
    David

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